My new book, King of Kings, is a multi-viewpoint novel telling the story of events in Britain from 925-934. I thought it would be good to share details of the historical people my character are based on.
My portrayal of Constantin, the king of the Scots, is of course fictional in King of Kings, but he is based on a historical individual, Constantin (e) II, so who exactly was he?
Constantin is a fascinating character. Again, and as with Athelstan, his exact date of birth is unknown, but it must have been, at the latest, by 877/8, when his short-reigned father died.
By 900, Constantin was the king of the Scots (we think – there is some confusion about this). This wasn’t yet quite Scotland, but it was getting there. The ancient kingdoms of Cait, Fortriu, Atholl and Dal Riata, were ruled by one king, Constantin. But, he hadn’t succeeded his father, Aed, but rather a man named Domnall II, his cousin. At this time there were two rival dynasties and they strictly alternated the kingship.
Affairs in the kingdom of the Scots often intermingled with those of the independent kingdom of Bamburgh, Strathclyde, and of course, the Norse, or Viking raiders, if you will. Indeed, the entry recording Constantin’s death in the Annals of Ulster, reads as though there was often strife.
‘Constantinus son of Ed held the kingdom for xl years in whose third year the Northmen plundered Dunkeld and all Albania. In the following year the Northmen were slain in Strath Erenn…And the battle of Tinemore happened in his xviii year between Constantin and Ragnall and the Scotti had the victory. And the battle of Dun Brunde in his xxxiiii year.’ (Alex Woolf, From Pictland to Scotland, 789-1070,p.126)
Constantin, ruling for decades, and I mean decades, seems to have brought much needed stability to the kingdom, as affairs there very much mirrored the emerging ‘England’ to the south.
‘Constantin’s reign has increasingly come to be see as one of the most significant in the history of Scotland. Not only was it very long, at least forty years, but it was also the period during which conflict and diplomatic relations between a kingdom recognisably ancestral to Scotland and one recognisably ancestral to England first occurred.’ (Alex Woolf, From Pictland to Scotland, 789-1070, p.128)
Constantin allied with the rulers of Bamburgh, and York, and also, on occasion, both Æthelflæd of Mercia and Edward the Elder, after her death. But, he seems to have been quite flexible in his thinking, and was prepared to pick and choice as he saw fit.
By the beginning of King of Kings, Constantin would have been in his mid-forties, and he was still to rule for many years to come, and he was certainly a more than adequate counterpart to Athelstan, king of the English, no doubt helped by his sons and grandsons, as his reign continued.
Preorder King of Kings
(released 10th February 2023)
Meet Athelstan, the king of the English
Meet Hywel, the king of the West Welsh
Meet Ealdred, the king of Bamburgh
Meet Lady Eadgifu, queen of the Anglo-Saxons
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